There are all kinds of interesting trends in play going in to Saturday. One of those is an increasingly porous Auburn pass defense. A look at the game log shows a steady deterioration in defensive passer rating over the last four games. Some of that may be due to the conference’s 10th ranked sack production, but there’s evidently some alarm over the play by the safeties.
By now, most teams have settled into their personnel in the secondary, making widespread changes only in answer to key injuries. Auburn, on the other hand, finds itself in disarray after giving up 320 yards per game in the Tigers’ past four games. Other than field cornerback Jonathan Jones, who has generally played physical football, fought to get his hands on the ball and leads the team with five interceptions and 12 passes defended, and hybrid Robensen Therezie, who hasn’t given way to Nick Ruffin much this season, the Tigers appear to have questions at every position.
Boundary cornerback Jonathon Mincy, who was targeted heavily against Old Miss, gave up two touchdown catches to Josh Reynolds and eventually gave way to T.J. Davis, a little-used fourth cornerback whose season high for snaps prior to Saturday was just 11 against Louisiana Tech. Auburn started Joshua Holsey and Johnathan “Rudy” Ford at safety; after the first two series, the Tigers subbed in Derrick Moncrief and Jermaine Whitehead, and the rotation continued throughout the game as Texas A&M picked up big yardage in the middle of the field. Even Whitehead, who made Auburn’s only interception, badly missed on a tackle at the line of scrimmage on Malcome Kennedy‘s 42-yard shovel pass. Teams are spreading the Tigers out, forcing them to play against trips formations with three receivers to one side, and Auburn’s safeties have struggled to pick up people coming over the middle in those situations.
You can hear much the same concern expressed in yesterday’s Weiszer and Page podcast from Jay G. Tate of Auburnsports.com.
With Malcolm Mitchell’s reemergence, that is something Georgia is well-equipped to exploit, with three wideouts and Blazevich. And if he’s getting good blocking support from the receivers, Bobo will still be able to run plenty from that formation, especially if Auburn is forced to clear the middle out to account for four guys in pass coverage.
Ellis Johnson is going to have some tough calls to make. At least he will if Bobo makes him.